Changes in the genetic make-up of tissue samples can be detected quickly and easily using a new method based on nanotechnology. This report researchers from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel in first clinical tests with genetic mutations in patients with malignant melanoma. The journal Nano Letters has published the study.
According to estimates by the American Skin Cancer Foundation, today more people develop skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer together. Although malignant melanoma accounts for only about 5 percent of skin cancers, these are the most serious cases and can result in death.
Around half of all patients who develop malignant melanoma exhibit a particular genetic change (mutation). This involves a change in the BRAF gene (B gene for Rapid Acceleration of Fibrosarcoma) that leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation.
There are now drugs that exploit these specific mutations and fight the cancer, significantly extending patients’ life expectancy. However, they work only if the corresponding genetic mutation is actually present. Where it is not, they give rise to severe side effects without producing the desired effect.
“It is therefore essential that we are able to identify the mutations reliably in tissue samples. That is the only way of ensuring that patients get the right treatment and successful outcomes,” explains the paper’s co-author, Professor Katharina Glatz of the Institute of Pathology at University Hospital Basel.
In a clinical pilot study, the team led by Professor Ernst Meyer and Professor Christoph Gerber at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the Department of Physics at Basel University used nanosensors for the first time to detect the mutations in tissue samples from patients with malignant melanoma. To do so, the researchers employed tiny cantilevers that were coated in different ways. Some of them carried a recognition sequence for the mutation the researchers were targeting.
Then genetic material (RNA) from the patients’ tissue samples was isolated and applied to the cantilevers. If the genetic change is present, the patient’s RNA binds to the recognition sequence on the cantilever. The resulting surface stress leads to bending of the cantilever, which can be measured. If the mutation is absent from the RNA sample, this bending does not occur – in other words, only a specific binding produces a signal. The advantage of using nanocantilevers is that no time-consuming procedures are needed. It takes less than a day to move from performing the biopsy to diagnosis.
Unthinkable 30 years ago
In this study, the Basel research team was able to demonstrate that nanomechanical microcantilevers can identify mutations in complex mixtures of total RNA isolated from tissue samples. At first, cantilevers were used only in atomic force microscopes. Professor Christoph Gerber – who is due to receive the Kavli Prize in Oslo on 6 September, together with Gerd Binnig and Cal Quate, for developing the atomic force microscope – observes: “Thirty years ago, we weren’t able to foresee that our technology might one day be used in hospital for personalized medicine – ‘from the bench to the bedside’, as it were.”
François Huber, Hans Peter Lang, Katharina Glatz, Donata Rimoldi, Ernst Meyer, and Christoph Gerber
Fast Diagnostics of BRAF Mutations in Biopsies from Malignant Melanoma
Nano Letters (2016), doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b01513
• Dr. François Huber, University of Basel, Department of Physics, Tel. +41 61 207 37 69, E-Mail: email@example.com
• Prof. Dr. Christoph Gerber, University of Basel, Department of Physics, Tel. +41 61 207 37 37, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
New findings help to better calculate the oceans’ contribution to climate regulation
14.11.2018 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration
14.11.2018 | Technische Universität München
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
14.11.2018 | Life Sciences